Cricket injuries

Published : Jan 14, 2010 00:00 IST

In 1955 it took me two first-class seasons, scores of dollars and ten Tests to find the road to corrective measure for my foot injury. It lay in stitching together a seamless, horsehide heel glove, which I strapped to my left heel.

It is funny how the minor features of sport frequently cause the most aggravation. One of my most painful international cricket injuries, for instance, was occasioned by nothing more than a blood blister! And it caused me to miss all but a handful of home Test matches in 1955 and 1956.

I returned triumphant from the Ashes and New Zealand series of 1954/55 with 29 wickets under my belt. I immediately added a further seven Springbok victims to my growing tally in the first Test at Trent Bridge. By the end of the New Zealand-Australian series that aggregate had swollen to 39.

The differential of 10 wickets could be attributed in part to my absence from the England line-up for the Lord’s, Leeds, Old Trafford Tests and the superlative spin bowling of Jim Laker.

Added to these considerations was the fact that I was seldom fully fit because I could scarcely ground my left foot in my delivery stride. To do so caused my left heel to bleed more beneath its thick skin and the blood blister at the base of my foot to swell to balloon-like proportions.

Relief only came with the puncturing of blood blister and the release of the pressure with a sanitized needle. But the cure carried with it the danger of infection.

Moreover puncturing the blood blister opens a wound and creates an infection site which must heal before the blood blister can be treated and healed a second time; In a phrase the bowler is back to the beginning of his problem. He begins a second time by draining his blood blister and in so doing he creates a second open wound with the blood blister still ever present! And far from cured

It was generally thought that the blood blister was caused by the repeated pounding of the bowler’s front foot into the batting surface, where the constant rolling of the playing surface had prepared a strip of turf as hard as concrete.

In order to lessen the shock of the front foot plunging into this hard wicket, the bowlers padded their front foot with layer upon layer of foam rubber or heel padding.

I summoned up as many heel pads as I could lay my hands on.

Then I encased my front foot in almost the whole stock of “Clark” rubber. But no matter how much I sought to cushion my front bowling stride, the ugly black bruise on my leading foot persisted and I failed my sixth fitness test and I could only put my front foot on the ground gingerly. I enlisted the assistance of “SARTRA”, The Shoes and Allied Trade Research Association, and an employee of the Association was set to work marching up and down in front of Rockingham House (the headquarters of shoe boffinry) in the midland city of Kettering, putting various cricket boots through their paces — forgive the pun!

Each and every pair succumbed to the force of fast bowling: the heel stiffeners softened, the boots became baggy and allowed the foot to move inside the boot. The padding did nothing to lessen the impact between the heel and the landing of the rear heel of the bowler.

Importantly the blood blister remained and the pain of its grounding was unimpaired.

It was at this juncture that the Lotus boot makers noticed that after each experiment the boot’s inside and its heel stiffener remained very warm indicating that friction had occurred somewhere in the movement of the foot inside the boot.

This movement caused the heel stiffener to soften, trapping it to side of the boot and instigating the beginning of a blood blister.

It is the heat and folding of this process which provokes the creation of the blister. It is the friction within the boot which creates the blister and NOT the impact of bowler’s front foot. The solution for the bruised heel syndrome is therefore not the lessening of the impact of the bowlers’ front foot, but rather the reduction of the friction inside the boot.

In 1955 it took me two first-class seasons, scores of dollars and ten Tests to find the road to corrective measure.

It lay in stitching together a seamless, horsehide heel glove, which I strapped to my left heel. Now when I bowled the friction I created occurred between my heel and the heel glove.

I was treating the cause of the blister — not the end result! There is a message in this moral tale. Plan to treat the logical and scientific causes and processes of cricket problems — not the more spectacular and obvious end results.

The second may appear the more glamorous, but the first is the surer method.

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